Page 1

General Motors' Layoffs Present Ample Opportunities for Entrepreneurs 


The economy has seen some significant changes this fall. The bankruptcy of Sears ​Holdings reflected​ the end of an era in retail, as  Sears and Kmart both closed stores. And this past week, General  Motors, another staple of the American economy, advertised that it  was laying off 14,000 workers and shutting down five plants. GM will  stop ​producing six models​, including the Chevrolet Impala.    While the Sears shutdown could be explained by the success has had replacing stores with its online shopping  feature -- following the demise of local retail stores that had  accelerated courtesy of WalMart -- this theory alone hardly explains  the GM layoffs.   

What we’re seeing, rather, is an ​adaptation to innovation and technological change.​ GM’s chairman and CEO Mary Barra stated as  much, saying that the layoffs are the next step in the company’s  “transformation to be[coming] highly agile, ​resilient and profitable  while giving us the flexibility to invest in the future.”    Clearly, what caused the layoffs and the shut-downs is the  expectation that self-driving autonomous cars are imminent.    Such technological change is an enormous opportunity for  entrepreneurs, who are both the instigators of change through  innovation and the players positioned to take advantage of it, as  opposed to America's slow-moving giants like GM and Sears. Still, if  you're one of those entrepreneurs, there is no need to wait for the  eventual upheaval that the mass adoption of self-driving cars will  cause.  GM’s move to meet the future already provides entrepreneurs with  plenty of ​opportunities​. Here are four ways entrepreneurs can  benefit from GM’s transformation today: 

1. Become a part of the emerging transportation manufacturing ecosystem.  From Tesla to Uber and Volvo, many companies agree that  self-driving cars are the future. And those cars might even be flying.  GM’s own transformation will position the company for the  self-driving future, and push this process, already underway, one  step further.    While nobody knows who will be first to market or what the personal  transportation systems of the future will look like, there are plenty of  opportunities to supply specialized services to these companies -- 

whether that means software to support production or create the driving algorithms themselves; new materials-development and  testing; battery technology or sensors; and even ethical  decision-making procedures. All of these opportunities -- and many  more -- are market niches that promise ​business opportunities​ for  new or existing startups. 

2. Partner with GM to source its manufacturing. Before self-driving cars have replaced today’s automobile  manufacturing, startups can facilitate the natural lifecycle of the  mature industry. As I explain in ​The Problem of Production​, new  innovations require a highly integrated business. But with time,  individual businesses will be able to focus more narrowly on their  core value-creation expertise by outsourcing functions that were  originally parts of GM.    Related: 3 Tips to Effectively Manage Layoffs  Automobile manufacturing, after all, is a very mature business. The  car we buy from a dealer is the result of a vast network of thousands  of companies working closely together. GM’s transformation will  speed up this ​disintegration process​ and decentralize automobile  manufacturing, increasing these sub-companies' ability to quickly  adapt and respond to change (agility). This, in turn, will mean they'll  be looking to outsource ​more​ functions. As an entrepreneur, you can  do business by simply taking stuff off GM’s (and other companies’)  hands. 

3. Strengthen your competency by hiring highly trained former GM workers.  While being laid off may be a personal tragedy, it doesn't mean that  the person suffering this fate has no market value. It only means 

there is no place in the company for that competency. The people laid off by GM are ​highly skilled​ within a wide variety of skillsets.  Much of their expertise is not only usable but highly valuable in other  industries.    There are electricians, metal engineers, software developers, plant  managers, HR experts, contract negotiators, and accountants -- to  name but a few of the skills GM’s workers boast that are now  available for hire.  This means an opportunity to strengthen your business competency  by hiring highly skilled people. And these skills may even be a core  competency when you're pursuing No. 2 above! 

4. Revitalize your organization with experienced workers.  Skills aren’t everything. Work experience brings a lot to the table too:  Experienced employees stabilize the workplace, create a more  professional atmosphere and help identify what will not work. Also, a  new and challenging job can energize both the individual and the  organization.    So you may not need to worry about hiring even those GM workers  who were “actively disengaged” and therefore cost their former  employer dearly. Chances are they will find the new job you offer  highly motivating!    The economic change means there are and will be new  opportunities. But to ​take advantage​ of them, one must be able to  recognize those opportunities -- which is only possible by imagining  (and creating) the future. That’s what GM is doing defensively, as a  way of protecting the market value of its business. 

Entrepreneurs should also do this offensively, by meeting the opportunities out there halfway to the future. In essence, they can  do so by taking a free ride off GM’s transformation.   

Profile for Mizanur Rahman

General Motors' Layoffs Present Ample Opportunities for Entrepreneurs